Wealth management firms could better serve individual clients by bucking conventional ideas about what they want, Bank of America President of Global Wealth Investment Sallie Krawcheck said Monday at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority annual conference.
That insight comes after Bank of America brokerage Merrill Lynch has spent more time since the financial crisis homing in on the desires of individual investors. The results have shown that investors are “much more risk averse” now, Krawcheck said, as terms like structured products still bring up memories of collateralized debt obligations that contributed to the financial crisis.
“If, however, you go back to the clients and talk to them about what they’re looking for, what you hear from many of them are, ‘You know, I’d really like to get back in the stock market, but gee, I got burned,’” Krawcheck said.
The wealth management industry can lure those investors back by better identifying their new needs, Krawcheck said. That means getting rid of the notion that all individual investors just want to see investment upside, and instead provide more protection from a downside to match their desires to feel more secure.
Fully tapping into investors’ desires will also mean getting rid of preconceived notions about certain age demographics, according to Krawcheck. With access to laptops and iPads, she said, older generations are just as interested in using those technologies to access their accounts. At the same time, younger generations, who have a reputation for embracing risk, are definitely risk averse.
“Despite conventional wisdom, 25- to 35-year-olds are more conservative than everyone but their grandparents,” Krawcheck said. “They’re not really day trading. They’re more in the banks than they are day trading.”
The opening panel to FINRA’s annual conference also included LPL Financial Chairman and CEO Mark Casady, Cresap Inc. President Mark Cresap and Edward Jones Managing Partner Jim Weddle.
Though the panel members represented firms of different sizes and services, each voiced concern about the possible looming implementation of a uniform fiduciary standard for broker-dealers and investment advisors.
“I would hope for standards of disclosure so that we can all speak in the same language,” Edward Jones’ Weddle said.
Bank of America already has some experience operating under the fiduciary standard on the U.S. Trust side, Krawcheck said. Still, she said, the concern is that the new requirements could be “too broad,” which could lead to more pressure on advisors.
“You can certainly be a fiduciary for one client,” Krawcheck said. “You can’t be a fiduciary for 700 or 7,000.”
It is important that the process not result in bickering that could result in only surface regulation that would not help the industry, Cresap said.
“Hopefully we can unify and raise our sights to target the high level definitions,” Cresap said.